Saturday, November 11, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 40

This week I wanted to follow up with a couple of stories regarding my first full time job.  Let's make the question:

Did anything unusual happen at your first job?

It took a few months for me to get my first job out of college, and as I mentioned I was hired as a bank teller. We had little money as we were newlyweds with college debt, but I went to a discount store and bought a pant suit so that I would look professional on my first day of work. I took the bus into Clayton, and was feeling strong and confident as I entered the main bank building. At least until I noticed that people were staring at me and whispering. The head of personnel whisked me into her office and asked me why I was wearing pants. Did no one tell me that pants were against the dress code for women in the bank?

In fact no one had told me, so beyond being mortified I was upset that I had spent money we could ill afford on an outfit I would no longer be allowed to wear. She did not send me home to change, but I was uncomfortable all day. What a way to start my new position!

But in reference to the question in the writing prompt, that is not the unusual thing that happened at work. One day I looking out the front windows of the bank as I had no customers at that time. I saw a black car with tinted windows pull up in front of the building across the street from us. Two men emerged from the car and I could see that the one closest to me had a holstered gun, which was covered as he shrugged into a jacket. Fearing that they were coming to rob the bank, I quickly consulted with my co-workers, and then dialed 911.

The St. Louis County Police headquarters was just around the corner from our bank, so their cars arrived in short order, lights flashing and sirens blowing as they surrounded the black car. And that is how I came to sick St. Louis County's finest on Chip Carter, son of then-President Jimmy Carter. As it turned out, he was giving a luncheon presentation in a nearby building, and the armed guys were Secret Service. Whoops!

Chip Carter photo
from National Archives

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 39

What was your first full-time job?

me with Jim in 1978
Like many starry-eyed college graduates, I fully anticipated graduating from college and landing a great job in the career I had dedicated four years of my life studying. For me, that was a Bachelor of Science Degree in Family Environment from Iowa State University. A well-known and highly-regarded program within the State of Iowa, the curriculum recognized and focused on the fact that if one person in a family had a problem, it was not just their problem but affected the family as a whole. The whole family needed to be involved in treatment in order for the situation to improve. In my opinion the program was very progressive in its way of thinking.

While I graduated in late May of 1978 along with my fiancé, I stayed in Des Moines preparing for our August wedding while my husband-to-be moved to St. Louis for his new job. I worked as a temp up until we were married, and didn't begin a serious job search in St. Louis until after our brief honeymoon. This was was before the age of the Internet, and the only way to look for a job was through classified ads in the newspaper. I painstakingly cut potential employment opportunities out of the paper each Sunday, and sat at my portable typewriter composing cover letters to attach to my resume. Then I waited...and waited...and waited...for a call asking me to come in for an interview. It was nerve-wracking, time-consuming and frustrating. Sometimes the ads were so vague that I had no idea what I was even applying for, let alone the name of the company or agency that was hiring.

When I did get an interview, the company or institution always seemed a little suspicious of my degree. It didn't say "Social Work", so they were unclear what I was trained to do, despite my explanations and a wonderful review from my supervisor following my internship with Catholic Social Services in Des Moines my senior year.

What I didn't realize at the time was that the country was in a recession in 1978, with high rates of inflation and unemployment. Budgetary cuts meant entry level positions in many industries were eliminated. Unfortunately my student loans were not put on hold due to a poor economy. So I took the first job that I was offered paying more than the current minimum wage of $2.65 per hour. I became a teller at Clayton Metro Bank.

You certainly did not need a college education to perform the tasks of my position, but the listening and personal relationships skills I learned came in handy when dealing with my co-workers and customers. I ultimately ended up in the commercial drive-up window of the main headquarters in Clayton, which was always busy since we were near the county government offices.

It wasn't long before I recognized that banking was not going to be my long-term career, even though I had pretty good people I worked with and an amazing supervisor. I began looking at master degree programs in the area, and left the bank after a year and a half to attend graduate school full-time. In 1980 I received my Master of Education Degree in Counseling, which opened up many employment opportunities for me.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 38

Today is my birthday, so I chose a writing prompt this week that deals with birthday celebrations.

How were birthdays celebrated when you were growing up?

mom, holding me, with brother Joe
This question made me think about the day I was born, and so I did a little research. I remember my mom telling me that she missed her baby shower, so I must have arrived a little earlier than expected. I was born at 4:36 in the afternoon on Friday, October 28th. The weather in Cincinnati, while cloudy, was an unseasonably warm 71 degrees. On that day 320,000 babies, including Bill Gates, were born around the world. I wonder how many of them are still alive after 22,646 days have passed? Eisenhower was president, and the top song in the nation was "Autumn Leaves" by pianist Roger Williams. It hit Billboard's number one spot on October 29th. Williams died in October of 2011. I'll think about him when "the falling leaves drift by the window..."

Birthdays were not a big deal in my house as I recall. In looking through old family photos, there is exactly one picture of a birthday party celebrating my sister, and none for the rest of us. Cards, gifts, and even cakes were not the norm. My sister probably did the most for me on my birthday, as she took me to see The Sound of Music and gave me gifts such as my first camera and a skate board, both of which I still have to this day.

The only birthday party I remember is one I threw for myself. In my sophomore year of high school I invited my three best girlfriends over and we played pool and had snacks and soft drinks in our finished basement in Des Moines. They gave me the highly desired new Jackson 5 album. It is even now in my collection of LPs.

Was it because my parents grew up during the depression that they perhaps felt birthdays were frivolous celebrations? Did their own parents do nothing for birthdays? I don't know the answer. But things were different in my husband's family. Birthdays were and are a time for family and fun, with cake, ice cream, cards and presents. Once he and I became a family, his traditions carried on first with us and later with our children. Even though they are grown and living on opposite coasts, we send them a card with cash and call them on their birthdays.

Everyone's day of birth should be honored in some way. Happy birthday to me!
October 2016